KEEPING our children safe is our utmost priority, but there is lots to consider in terms of setting up our home environment to support that safety. Here are some things to think about.
Anybody with small children in the house will know that once they get moving at all, you need to view the surroundings in a new light.
Their eye level is different, so seeing things from their perspective can help to identify the hazards that we might otherwise overlook. Work your way around the house and garden from that lower level to see what looks inviting, and what could pose any potential danger.
Furniture not attached to the wall, or blind cords are the most common issues to look out for. Dishwasher tablets and medicines need to be kept out of reach, and if your cleaning cupboard is currently under the sink, move it up and out of the way. The HSE have a useful printable safety check-list to run through, which will help to focus your audit.
Keep important contact information to hand — the National Poisons Centre: (01) 8092166 is a phone number that should be stuck on every fridge. South Doc or your equivalent is another useful one, as is your GP number and standard emergency number reminders.
Your Eircode is another thing to keep handy should you ever need to direct an ambulance and don’t know it off by heart, or if somebody visiting your home needs to know or use it. You could also have your own contact details up there, in case a babysitter needed to reach you.
Create a little kit of essential first aid items. Bandages, burn cream, paracetamol and ibuprofen liquids if suitable for your child, a scissors, antiseptic wash, alcohol wipes, cotton pads and tape are all good staples to have to hand. Most pharmacies will be able to provide you with ready-made kits, or make one up to order. It’s best to have it in a box that children cannot easily open, and store it somewhere out of reach but readily accessible should you need to use it. Check expiry dates on products on a six-monthly basis, and swap out expired items for fresh replacements.
Invest in some child-proofing equipment where required. Things like stairgates and fireguards should be installed properly, to ensure that they don’t end up posing a further danger. Plug blockers are essential to keep little fingers out of sockets, and you can get handy clear plastic covers for the corners of tables or counters that your child could inadvertently bang a head on.
Drawers and cupboards are treasure troves of forbidden items, and you can get easy-to-install catches for these, that are only easily opened by an adult.
Make sure that windows cannot be easily opened, and that doors cannot bang on small hands.
Choking hazards are numerous for smaller children, and are something to be very vigilant for. Any small object could go into the mouth and back the wrong way. It’s a difficult thing to police if there are children of several ages in the house, as what’s suitable for one to have access to may not be suitable for another. As a rule, keep all small items out of reach.
Cut things like cherry tomatoes and grapes in quarters lengthwise, as cutting them just in half or width-wise makes them just the right fit for the airway, and they can easily lodge.
Things like nuts or boiled sweets should be avoided with small children, and always check that toys are age appropriate and carry the CE mark.
Attending a Children’s First Aid class is advised to be familiar with how to handle a choking event, depending on the child’s age.
While the hope is that we will never need to act on any of the above hazards, it can be reassuring to know that you’ve put the appropriate safeguards in place.
Their eye level is different, so seeing things from their perspective can help to identify the hazards that we might otherwise overlook.
Dr Michelle O’Driscoll is a pharmacist, researcher and founder of InTuition, a health and wellness education company.
Her research lies in the area of mental health education, and through InTuition she delivers health promotion workshops to corporate and academic organisations nationally. See www.intuition.ie